John Richardson covers a bit of what’s been going on in North Carolina. This is one area I’m not sure there’s any solution other than the circular firing squad, because what you have is a state group, in this case, Grassroots North Carolina, actively trying to undermine an NRA endorsement over issues that have absolutely nothing to do with gun rights. This particularly annoys me because in the DISCLOSE battle, Schuler was the one Democrat who tried to do the right thing, and get every pro-gun group exempted from the requirement. Not only just every gun rights group, but virtually every political advocacy group.
GRNC is not only wrong on Schuler, they are supremely wrong. They are lambasting the one Democrat who tried to solve this problem in favor of all 501(c)(4) non-profits, including GOA, including CCRKBA, and including GRNC. I will back GRNC to the hilt when they do good work like participate in lawsuits to try to get North Carolina’s emergency powers laws tossed out, but they are wrong to attack Schuler on this issue, and I believe they are shooting the rest of us in the foot in their attempts to smear him on an issue totally unrelated to gun rights.
So what obligation do we have to not return fire when other groups actively being a circular firing squad? I think the answer is we shouldn’t have much. The great trick is not to let it get personal. Argue on the facts, and may the best set of facts win the day.
UPDATE: This is really a collective action problem. NRA promises pro-2A supporting politicians they can deliver the gun vote on election day. To the extent NRA can actually do that, we win. If public infighting draws into question whether NRA can actually deliver the vote, it hurts the organization as a whole electorally, and thus the cause. I will never tell an NRA member not to vote their individual conscience as a citizen. I would be lying to you if I told you that when I got into the voting booth, I’ve never bucked an NRA endorsement. Most certainly I have, because as a citizen, the Second Amendment is important to me, but I weigh that among a number of issues that are important to me.
NRA risks creating a perception that when it comes to supporting Democrats, even liberal Democrats, who support the Second Amendment, they can’t deliver the goods. If that perception takes hold, and you can bet our enemies will do everything they can to push that perception after Tuesday, the whole bipartisan coalition we’re creating falls apart, and we go back to the Republicans treating us like the crazy uncle. Because where else do we have to go?
Collective action is a tough thing for gun owners. It’s always felt like herding cats, and to be honest, I’d probably get worried if it ever wasn’t like that. But ultimately, you have to take collective action to protect individual rights, because politics is a collective action sort of institution. That necessarily has to mean putting some of yourself aside to accomplish goals. Not all of yourself, but it requires a bit of being able to subordinate your own desires for the sake of the greater good. It requires not making the perfect the enemy of good.
The left is very good at this, for obvious reasons. It’s in their blood. It’s not in ours. I wouldn’t want us to be like the left. Not by a long shot. But I think we need to figure out a way to disagree, and to express disagreement, that doesn’t undermine the cause as a whole. We need to be able to speak collectively as a close to a single voice as we can manage, but still have room within the framework for disagreement without seriously undermining the single voice. I’m not going to absolve NRA, and suggest they aren’t part of this problem, because I think they are. But to be honest, I won’t pretend to have a solution. I’m not sure there is a solution. But the fact that the left is very good at collective action, while we’re very bad at it, mostly due to our respective natures, is another one of the reasons liberty loses. Liberty is an individual benefit, but to preserve it you need collective action within a political framework. This is a paradox I’m not sure how to resolve.